Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League, with another Sergio Aguero hat-trick, and did so by destroying Chelsea.
They humiliated them and their head
Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri was left humiliated by the tremendous defeat.
It was a result that kept Chelsea out of the top four, and actually dropped them down to sixth on goal difference, for the first time this season but it was also the kind of defeat that raises serious questions over where they are heading and whether Sarri will be able to convince them he can continue after this campaign. It was that brutal.
Sarri-ball was deconstructed in 25 devastating minutes. Whatever the excuses, the mitigation, the understandable arguments over giving Sarri time – and the players – to execute his precise brand of football big teams do not get taken apart like this. And, as beautifully as City played, not this easily.
Pep Guardiola’s tutoring of City also took time and maybe Chelsea will look to that but, if they do, it will be the first time in the history of Roman Abramo.
Sarri has to get them back in that top four but looked bereft. The hangdog Italian chewed the cigarette butts on the touchline, as usual, but looked like he was about to be spat out. This was Chelsea’s biggest ever defeat in the Abramovich era and in their past two away league games they have conceded a frightening 10 goals without reply.
Aguero’s three goals represented his 11th Premier League hat-trick, drawing him level with the record held by Alan Shearer. And he could have had more – missing a sitter and striking the goal-frame. It was also his second successive hat-trick in home games having also struck three times against Arsenal. He once again departed to a standing ovation.
The bigger picture in terms of the Premier League title race is City emphatically stating their case, again, and significantly enhancing their goal difference by doing so. Liverpool have a game in hand – that game being away to Manchester United, whose caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the stands here, next Sunday – and can go three points clear again but City now have a 10-goal adv
Four goals arrived in the first-half. Or, rather, the first half of a first-half in which it felt like only Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain had the stomach for the fight in the Chelsea team. The first goal summed it up. Jorginho, badly struggling at the base of the midfield, needlessly fouled Kevin De Bruyne, who took a quick free-kick. Neither Hazard nor, even more so, Marcos Alonso were alert to the danger and Bernardo Silva ran in from the touchline to cross low. David Luiz deflected the ball out but only as far as the onrushing Raheem Sterling who slammed it high into the net.
There was then an extraordinary miss by Aguero who somehow side-footed wide from just two yards out, with the goal beckoning, after a wonderful run and low cross by Bernardo but the striker quickly made amends.
Chelsea were reeling and they unravelled when Zinchenko scooped the ball into the penalty area with David Luiz heading it out. That should have been the end of it but, for some reason, Ross Barkley headed it back towards his own goal, playing Aguero onside and he stole in to steer a low shot past Arrizabalaga. It was Aguero’s 159th league goal for City – a new club record.
City struck again and once more Chelsea were at fault with no pressure as Aguero sent the ball out wide to Sterling who returned it back to the striker with both David Luiz and Rudiger standing off him before Rudiger managed to intercept. But the ball only ran out to Ilkay Gundogan on the edge of the area who struck a low first-time shot into the corner of the goal.
It was the first time that Chelsea had conceded four goals in consecutive top-flight away matches since December 1990; following on from the 4-0 defeat away to Bournemouth. They created two first-half chances, but the game was up. For the first Pedro broke into the City area, running clear onto Higuain’s clever back-heel, before Ederson blocked his low shot. Then the goalkeeper pushed over a powerful volley by Higuain.
Once more Aguero went close to scoring as he met De Bruyne’s cross and was unfortunate that his crisp header thumped back off the cross-bar. It always felt, though, that it as a matter of time before Aguero did claim another hat-trick and his chance came when Cesar Azpilicueta was undone by Sterling, bringing down the winger. Aguero rolled the penalty low into the corner with Arrizabalaga diving the other way.
The Spaniard was beaten again. His compatriot David Silva came on and pulled the strings, releasing Zinchenko with a clever pass and he cut the ball back. It fell to Sterling who finished unerring from close-range. And to think these two sides will meet again in the Carabao Cup Final later this month. Hopefully it will be more of a contest. Or at least some kind of contest.